The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match: Elizabeth Eulberg

Book: The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Pages: 240
Age Range: 8-12

ShelbyHolmesMeetsThe Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match is the second book in Elizabeth Eulberg's series about Shelby Holmes, pint-sized but brilliant detective, following The Great Shelby Holmes: Girl Detective. The narrator of the books is 11-year-old John Watson, who moved recently to Harlem, and lives in the same apartment building as Shelby (where the building manager is named Mrs. Hudson, of course, and Police Inspector Lestrade is Shelby's nemesis). Shelby, as any astute reader would expect, solves mysteries large and small through her powers of deductive reasoning. Sometimes, however, her rather oversized ego does get in the way.

As The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match begins, Watson and Shelby are starting a new semester, Watson first, at the Harlem Academy of the Arts. Watson has balance making new friends with his growing loyalty to Shelby. Shelby, for her part, is showing increasing reliance on and loyalty to Watson, even as she tries to teach him to be more observant. Shelby finds a new teacher's behavior suspicious, and soon teases out a mystery to be solved. This reveals a new and unexpected rival, and real danger for Watson and Shelby.

I'm not sure how many middle grade readers will be familiar enough with the Sherlock Holmes stories to appreciate the Holmes-related details in The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match (Shelby's use of a disguises and a school called Miss Adler's, for example). I'm sure there were other details that went over my head, too, as I am far from from an expert. But I think that the Shelby Holmes books will hold up for middle grade readers anyway. 

Shelby is annoying, but her deductive reasoning is spot and, as she tries to teach Watson, informative. Watson is wholly likable, with multiple dimensions of realistic but not overdone diversity (he's black, his parents have recently divorced and he misses his dad, he's Type 1 diabetic, and he loves to write). Watson humanizes Shelby, and provides an accessible entry point into her world of mystery-solving for young readers.  Here they are, talking together:

"Shelby pointed a finget at me. "There's something off about him. He looks at me in a weird way."

WHO DOESN'T? I wanted to ask, but I bit my tongue. But seriously? I'd seen nothing but weird looks for Shelby from kids and teachers today.

"Hold on." I narrowed my eyes at her. "What exactly were you doing after school?"

Her eyes darted sideways.

Oh, she was so busted.

"Please tell me you weren't stalking our new teacher."

"It's called tailing a person of interest," she replied with a sniff." (Page 28-29, ARC)

I did find Watson's ability to make friends right away a bit unrealistic, in light of his friendship with known weird girl Shelby. But of course his much nicer personality is part of the whole point of the Watson/Holmes dynamic, so I'm prepared to let that go.

I enjoyed The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match (as I did the first book). I appreciated the characters, I didn't see all of the twists coming, and I thought that the stakes of the mystery were aimed just right for middle grade readers. I also liked Watson's relationship with his busy but concerned single mother, and I liked Watson's identify as someone who wants/needs to write. I certainly recommend this series for middle grade mystery fans, and I think that adult Holmes fans will enjoy it, too. 

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books 
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: August 9: Self-Entertainment, Play-Based Camp + Toys that Spy

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture books through middle school) and one post about my wish to strengthen my daughter's self-entertainment muscle. I also have a re-post of an article I wrote about play-based vs. activity-bases summer camp, two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one post with more detailed notes / responses to some recent joy of learning-related articles

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished four middle grade and three adult novels.  I read/listened to: 

  • Ellen Raskin: The Westing Game. Puffin Modern Classics. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed July 31, 2017, on MP3. This was my first re-read of this title in many years, though I did remember a few plot points. 
  • Rick Riordan: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: Book 1, The Sword of Summer. Disney Hyperion. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed August 5, 2017, on Kindle. I liked the characters in this one, and appreciate Riordan's efforts to include various types of diversity. Magnus Chase has spent two years homeless at the start of the book, another character is deaf and uses sign language, another is Middle Eastern, etc. 
  • SpyToysMark Powers (ill. Tim Wesson): Spy Toys. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. Chapter Book. Completed August 6, 2017, print ARC. Review to come. 
  • Jackson Pearce: Ellie, Engineer. Chapter Book. Completed August 6, 2017, print ARC. Review to come. 
  • Michael Connelly: The Late Show (Renee Ballard #1). Little, Brown and Company. Adult Mystery. Completed July 25, 2017, on MP3. This book introduces a new character for Connelly (who, interestingly, is also at least somewhat homeless, despite being a detective). 
  • Joy Ellis: Crime on the Fens (Nikki Galena, Book 4). Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 27, 2017, on MP3. This one was fun. In addition to my continued enjoyment of the characters, I liked the plot better than I did the previous book. 
  • Michael Hambling: Dark Crimes (D.I. Sophie Allen, Book 1). Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed August 4, 2017, on MP3. This is my first read of a new British cop series. I found the story compelling, and liked the main character, but was occasionally irked by the author being didactic. For example, an expert comes in and lectures the cops at a couple of points about domestic violence, thus also lecturing the audience. I'm going to give this series another try (because I am always needing new audio series), but if that aspect gets worse instead of better, I will stop. 

HungryMindI'm currently reading The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood by Susan Engel and listening to Not Alone by Craig Falconer. My daughter and I are still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together. We are finally at Hogwarts, and learning about how the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher works.

You can find my daughter's 2017 reading list here. For her own reading, she's  still reading and re-reading El Deafo by Cece Bell. She recommends it to everyone. She's also re-reading the Babysitters Club Graphic Novels (and I've pre-ordered the next one). She read the last third of book three to me aloud in bed last night. She pronounced Spy Toys and Ellie, Engineer (above) to be at her reading level, but she wishes that they were graphic novels, and has not actually picked either of them up (though I would expect Ellie, Engineer to be exactly her cup of tea). She is counting down the days until school starts (2 weeks from today), though getting her out of bed that early is going to be a challenge. I can't believe that summer is passing so quickly. 

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Here's to a bit more time for summer reading!

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Daybreak Bond: Megan Frazer Blakemore

Book: The Daybreak Bond (Firefly Code #2)
Author: Megan Frazer Blakemore
Pages: 352
Age Range: 8-12

DayBreakBondThe Daybreak Bond is the sequel to Megan Frazer Blakemore's The Firefly Code (my review). Both books are about a group of children who live in a protected community in a dystopian future suburban Boston. The children are partially genetically engineered, some more than others. Narrator Mori is a "natural" in that she wasn't designed, but she has had some modifications to improve her vision. She also has had a modification that she laments, to make her less brave (so that she won't take risks).

Mori's friend Ilana, on the other hand (SPOILER for the first book) was completely created in a lab. And now Ilana's creators have decided, because of a few glitches, to destroy her. Mori and her friends Theo, Julia, and Benji escape New Harmonie on a quest to take Julia to a scientist in Cambridge, who they believe will help. The Daybreak Bond covers the kids' journey through a perilous outside world that none of them has previously visited. 

The Daybreak Bond has lots of nods to Boston, most of which fly over the heads of Mori and her friends, but which I found entertaining. These include a boy wearing a hat with a shamrock on the back, an automated boat called "Tessie" that crossed the Charles River, and an old woman who refers to the children as "my ducklings." Mori and her friends are also quite surprised to encounter Concord children who do strange things in pronouncing, and not pronouncing, their R's. 

I especially liked how Blakemore handled the children's encounters with the kids from outside, actually. Mori and her friends have grown up protected, told that the people outside of New Harmonie are diseased, and not as bright as they are. Only gradually do they learn that the people outside of their town have strengths of their own. The interpersonal dynamics between Mori and her friends are also interesting, particularly as she confronts the fact that her taller, stronger "designed" friends seem almost compelled to protect her. She, and they, struggle throughout the books with questions of design vs. free will. 

I also liked how Mori's friend Julia calls the adults in their world on preaching one thing and doing another. Like this:

"I was thinking about the people who built Ilana. I was thinking how they all worked together on this project and when it started to go wrong, they didn't really take responsibility. They just tried to shut her down, to hide their mistakes. And that's like the exact opposite of what they teach us. When you make a mistake, you have to own it." (Page 94)

Most of the adults in The Daybreak Bond are weak and/or flawed. But the kids are multi-dimensional, with strengths and weaknesses, bonds and tensions. And with the kids on a quest through a dangerous futuristic landscape for most of the book, they are the ones who matter. 

The Daybreak Bond is a worth sequel to The Firefly Code. It has suspense and humor. But most of all, it will make kids think. It's science fiction about genetic engineering that raises big questions in an age-appropriate way, and has characters that young readers will care about. Recommended for anyone who enjoys science fiction or quest novels, and a must-read for fans of the first book. (And yes, do read the first book before reading this one.)

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books  
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Play-Based vs. Activity-Based Summer Day Camp (repost from @BAMRadioNetwork article)

PollitasHouse_1This article was originally published on the EDWords blog at BAM Radio Network. I am re-posting it here.  

This is my first summer without home-based childcare. Although I work from home, keeping my seven-year-old, only child daughter home with me is not a good option because she is (as previously described on my blog) not very good at entertaining herself. I have work that I need to do, and I certainly don't want her on her device all day long.

Most of the time, she goes to a small nearby childcare center that is play-based. During the summer they have weekly themes, and they offer supplies for different craft projects according to those themes. But they are very low-key, and it's typical for me to go by to pick my daughter up and find the kids doing something like making a cooperative book or practicing a show. [And sometimes they are watching a movie - you can't have everything.] But in general, it's a pretty relaxed environment, and ranges from 2 to maybe 6-7 kids there at one time. She's there during the school year after school, too, but there are more kids then.

Wanting to mix things up a bit, I had also signed her up for two weeks at a bigger, more structured day camp, held at a local elementary school. There were lots of STEAM activities - science and art projects (which are now taking up considerable space around our house). There was plenty of time outside running around, themes for the different days, music, and tremendous enthusiasm on the part of the young counselors. We know a bunch of other families who also attended this camp the first week, and most of the kids loved it.

My daughter? Not so much. After the first day, I basically had to force her to go every day. She kept whining and asking why she couldn't just go to the regular place. (Because I had pre-paid, and was not about to pay for 2 different things at the same time.) The best she could tell me about WHY she didn't like it was that it was too much like school. Reading between the lines a bit, it was like school but without the free play at lunch and recess, without any reading, and without seeing as many of her friends (especially the second week - the second week was very painful). She didn't like having to go from activity to activity on someone else's schedule. She didn't like having to run around outside in the heat. She didn't like being with 150 kids instead of the usual handful.

Some of this, I think, is a tendency in the direction of introversion. But I also think it's just the appeal of free play over structured activities. When I went to pick her up today, her first day back at her usual place, she begged me not to make her leave. About six kids were in the middle of a project to make a restaurant, which was at least partially my daughter's idea. She was punching holes in construction paper to make … something. I'm not really sure. Other kids were arranging chairs and thinking about how to make centerpieces. The teachers were offering ideas if the kids wanted them, but weren't pushing them or telling them what they had to do, or when they had to finish. I felt guilty that it was time to take her home. As any working parent knows, having your child beg you to STAY at childcare is a true blessing.

Please understand that I'm not knocking the STEAM-based day camp. Everyone there was clearly working hard, and most of the kids seemed to be having a good time. Even my daughter was inspired by the camp to build a cardboard and duct tape house (shown above), on her own at home, for the camp director's stuffed bird. But for my daughter overall, even when she had close friends also attending, it just wasn't a good fit.

The local place isn't perfect. The kids don't get outside as much I would like, or get much exercise, and there's the aforementioned movie watching. But there are some plusses that I hadn't really noticed before. The kids are of different ages, ranging from maybe 3 or 4 to 10 (which my reading on play tells me is good for kids). And even when they are watching movies, they have to decide themselves which one to watch. They negotiate and cooperate, and the teachers seem to maintain a pretty light hand through it all.

So, unless something changes, I expect that we'll be using the local place for most of the summer next year, and foregoing the more formal camp. My daughter and I will both be happier.

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: August 4: #KidLitCon, #PictureBook Marketing + Nurturing Curiosity

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookLists, #JoyOfLearning, #KidLitCon, #math, #PictureBooks, #STEM, boys and reading, curiosity, education, growing bookworms, helicopter parents, literacy, marketing, schools, summer vacation, and teaching. 

Book Lists

BestWeekEverSome specifically appropriate for , w/ short reviews from @randomlyread  

Black Girl Magic: 33 Featuring Black Female Protagonists: from Charnaie Gordon  https://t.co/tIuw10rIMF

Events + Programs

Neat community project: StoryWalk lets children read book while soaking up nature - via  https://t.co/SeLcc4yMc5 

Growing Bookworms

They Don’t "Just" Need to Find the Right Book, they need help finding book after book that they love  

Teachers "have the power to make OR break our , please wield that power very carefully" urges  https://t.co/igSDwOIJ83

Want Teenage Boys to Read? Easy. Give Them Books About Sex, suggests

Interesting: Sight Words Are so 2016: New Study Finds the Real Key to Early  

Kidlitosphere

KidlitconLogo2017-SquareWithHeaderToday is the last day to sign up to be a presenter for 2017 | contact or see details here:  

The program for 2017 in Hershey, PA (Nov. 3-4) is shaping up nicely | Register now!  https://t.co/aVyk9qoBgS

Aren't These 2017 Keynote Speakers fabulous? Conference is Nov. 3-4 in Hershey, PA. Don't miss it!

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

StinkyStenchGreat stuff! Josh Funk Shares Powerhouse Marketing Strategies - 24 Carrot  

Thoughts from on Seeking "Authentic Value" in Books for Young Children

Parenting + Play

Never Ignore a Child Who Asks "Why?" | we need to nurture curiosity + spark creativity  https://t.co/VXxYvGyxUn

On nurturing our children to pursue their dream jobs (+ keeping them engaged), by  https://t.co/XdiCY0xnJi

Are Helicopter Parents Ruining Summer Camp? |

What Teachers Think Kids Should Do During the Summer: , reflect, relax, create, says  https://t.co/17BMvUY1bN

Why kids need risk, fear + excitement in (increases activity, resilience + more)  https://t.co/dAatQvuOQy

Schools and Libraries

AmuletBuilding Relationships through (+ increasing job satisfaction) as a Principal | Jim Bailey

Survey says 90% of Parents Think Their Kids Are on Track in & . Really 1 in 3  

5 Ways To Make School Boring for young learners: only let them check out simple + more

Curiosity (intrinsic motivation) Is a Unique + Underemphasized Marker of Academic Success -  https://t.co/lDaRSleKkO

STEM

We're All Born With Mathematical Abilities (And Why That's Important)  

Meet the 2017 Mighty Girl Finalists for the Title of "America's Top Young Scientist" /

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Dazzle Ships: Chris Barton and Victo Ngai

Book: Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion
Author: Chris Barton
Illustrator: Victo Ngai
Pages: 36
Age Range: 7-10

DazzleShipDazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion is a non-fiction picture book about a strategy that Great Britain and America used during World War I in an attempt to prevent supply ships from being torpedoed. Author Chris Barton provides a brief introduction to World War I before outlining the risk to Great Britain of losing the war because its citizens were at risk of starving (due to the loss of supply ships). A Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve lieutenant-commander named Norman Wilkinson came up with the idea of basically reverse camouflaging the ships, painting them with patterns that would "dazzle" the German submarine crews into not being able to determine the ships' directions of movement. A desperate British navy actually followed this plan, as did, later, America's navy. Ultimately more than 4000 ships were "dazzled", though Barton reports that evidence as to the specific success of the dazzle ships is unclear. 

Dazzle Ships is a fascinating window into a little-known story about World War I. 100 years later, Dazzle Ships gives gives kids background information about the war and also provides an example of the power of creativity in problem-solving. Or, as the book concludes:

"Times change. Technology changes. Torpedoes get faster, submarines get computerized, challenges of all kinds get replaced by new ones. But a willingness to tackle problems by trying the unlikely, the improbable, the seemingly bonkers will always be needed."

I especially love "the seemingly bonkers". 

Dazzle Ships is quite text-dense. And, of course, it's about ships being bombed, with reference to people starving. This is certainly a picture book for older kids, something one would put in a second grade or higher classroom or a school library.

Visually, Dazzle Ships is stunning, particularly Victo Ngai's rendering of the dazzle ships themselves. He uses a mix of digital and analog media that works particularly well in conveying backgrounds, like the waves of the ocean, and golden skies. A page spread illustrating the concept of camouflage is sure to both entertain and educate young readers, while a futuristic image at the end is inspiring. 

Dazzle Ship is a nonfiction picture book for older readers that educates and informs, captures an incident most adults won't be familiar with, and has eye-catching illustrations. I will not be surprised to hear more about this one come Cybils-time. Recommended!

Publisher: Millbrook Press 
Publication Date: September 1, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


#JoyOfLearning Links from @DTWillingham + @ERobbPrincipal + @TelegraphSci: Enjoying Reading + #Playing Outdoors

JoyOFLearningLogoToday I have three articles that are seemed deserving of a bit of extra attention. The first two are about helping kids to enjoy reading, one aimed more at parents and the other aimed more at teachers, but both full of good sense. The third article is about a British initiative in which streets are closed down periodically so that children can get outside and play, with many resulting benefits. Wishing you joyful reading!

ReadingMindWhat Works For Getting Kids to Enjoy ? | Make access easy, offer no rewards  https://t.co/3HeVU3DQZS

Daniel T. Willingham: "The implication of these examples is that books should not just be available, but virtually falling into children’s laps, or at least, visible in as many locations as possible: in the classroom, in every room of the house, in the car, and so on...

Obviously some video content is more enriching than others—Sesame Street is not equivalent to Tom and Jerry cartoons—but if children are to choose reading, controlling the content of screen time won’t do it. The amount must be controlled as well." 

Me: After explaining why external rewards are unlikely to motivate kids to enjoy reading, Daniel Willingham draws on "the expectancy-value model" to suggest strategies that make reading a higher value activity to kids, like choosing books about subjects that they enjoy and using graphic novels to make decoding easier. I haven't read Willingham's newest book (The Reading Mind), from which this article is excerpted, but have enjoyed his previous titles. While the ideas of keeping books readily available, limiting external rewards, limiting screen time, and choosing books at the right reading level are not new, I am in agreement with Willingham's suggestions, and appreciate his science-based approach.

TeachingReadingBid Farewell to “I Hate Reading”, 7 concrete tips from Laura Robb | class , choice + more

Laura Robb: "Choice. Let students choose their reading materials. Let them abandon a book if it doesn’t resonate with them. I have a quick conference with students who abandon a book to find out why. The “why” offers insights into what they do and don’t enjoy.

Read aloud every day and introduce students to a wide-range of literary genres. Read those texts you love, as your passion will rub off on students. Reading aloud also builds students’ listening capacity, vocabulary, and their experiences with literary language."

Me: Laura Robb is a teacher, author and coach. Here she offers seven tips for teachers to help them encourage kids to enjoy reading. I was especially struck by her emphasis on the need for wide ranging classroom libraries (wide ranging both in terms of reading levels and subjects). In the above-referenced article, Daniel Willingham gave an example of students who were interested in a book, but not willing to make the extra effort to go to the nearby school library to check it out. The easier it is for kids to find and pick up books, the more they will read.

I hope that Laura Robb's advice reaches many teachers. If there was more emphasis in our schools, across all age ranges, on helping kids to ENJOY reading, more reading would be taking place. It's as simple as that. 

Close roads so kids can in the street like their parents did, say British public health experts

Sarah Knapton: "Roads should be closed regularly to allow children to play in the street as they did a generation ago, health experts have said, after a study showed pilot schemes increased youngsters’ activity five-fold.

More than 500 communities in Britain have already signed up to the ‘Playing Out’ initiative, which works with local councils to temporarily pedestrianise roads for an hour or two each week to allow children to play safely near their homes.

A new analysis of the simple scheme by the University of Bristol found that residents reported a greater sense of a community, overall happiness, and said their areas were more friendly and safer. One woman claimed the project had even helped her combat post-natal depression."

Me: This is just cool. My own issue is more that my daughter doesn't have other kids to play with in any nearby homes, but if we knew that some street nearby was being closed at a certain time, so that kids could play there, you may sure I would find a way to get her there. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This post may contain affiliate links. 


Professional Crocodile: Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio

Book: Professional Crocodile
Author: Giovanna Zoboli
Illustrator: Mariachiara Di Giorgio
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

ProfessionalCrocodileProfessional Crocodile is wordless picture book originally published in Italy and brought to the US by Chronicle. Written by Giovanna Zoboli and illustrated by Mariachaira Di Giorgio, Professional Crocodile follows a crocodile as he wakes to his alarm clock in an urban apartment, gets ready for the day, and takes the train to work. Along the way he purchases some flowers and a roasted chicken. His destination for the flowers is a mild surprise, while his workplace is completely unexpected. 

I didn't see the ending coming, which is quite saying something. Kids will, I think, be both surprised and delighted. The illustrations consist of a series of small, detailed vignettes in sepia tones. We see the crocodile using the toilet (younger kids will like that, picking out a tie to wear, and eating a healthy breakfast. When he's out and about in the city, observant readers will notice some people taking him in stride, while others look at him askance. Though he's surrounded mostly by people, other clothed, upright animals are visible on the train, to careful observers. Some passersby are seen more than once. 

The illustrations maintain an international flavor. Signs and posters are in Italian, and the city streets have a European feel to them. There are a myriad of details to reward careful attention, making this book a better fit for early elementary school kids than for preschoolers (who also might not appreciate the payoff of the crocodile's occupation). 

Professional Crocodile is a quiet story, a bit quirky but ultimately satisfying. Because it is a wordless story, it would make a great choice for kindergarten and first graders to look through on their own, adding their own words to tell the story. Recommended, and one that I expect to read again in the future. 

Publisher: Chronicle (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


"I'm Bored. What Should I Do?"

I believe in the power of free play. I believe that kids should have time to dream, and to pursue their own interests. I believe that parents should try not to over-schedule their kids, to allow time for these things. I have a daughter who doesn't like to be over-scheduled, and protests when she feels like the frequency of activities is too high.

And yet. Self-entertainment is something that frequently seems elusive. My daughter is an only child. Not only that, she's an only child who for quite some time had a mother who worked from home AND had a full time nanny. She is as a result more dependent than I would like on having someone to play with her. 

ImBoredWe recently had a free Saturday together, our first in a while. My daughter spent what seemed like the entire day either asking me to play with her (which I did, some of the time) and/or complaining because none of her friends were available to play. She would have been happy to entertain herself (if you can call it that) had I allowed her to be on her tablet all day, but this I wasn't willing to do.

She tired fairly quickly of both reading and writing, and claimed that there was nothing else that she could do on her own. My suggestions of building something with blocks or cardboard boxes, coloring, playing a one-person logic game, etc. were all rebuffed. We ended up spending a big chunk of time sorting through her outgrown clothes, making up bags for Goodwill. Which was useful, but hardly the creative play that I had in mind for her (and hardly the chance to sit quietly and read for a while that I had in mind for myself).

It's not that she never plays on her own. She likes to read, write, draw, and build things. She'll sometimes play with barbies or her stuffed animals. But she'll only do these things on her own for short periods. Then she's back with "I'm bored. What can I do?". 

Playdates are a huge help, of course, and I'm grateful for every single one. But there are always going to be times when no friends are available, and I want her to be able to entertain herself. Some friends have offered advice on Facebook: knitting, quilting, sewing, personal scavenger hunts (in which the items are super hard to find). One friend, Sandhya Nankani, shared an article that she published this summer about the benefits of saying "That's fine, be bored." Sandhya is totally right, and her article is well worth a read. But I'm still struggling a bit.

I'm a pushover for buying my daughter books (of course), notebooks, and craft supplies. She has Legos and other toys coming out of her ears. Clearly it's more of a mindset than an actual lack of things to do. The bottom line is that this is something we're going to have to keep working on, little by little, building up her self-entertainment muscles. I'm determined to do this not just because I want more reading time for myself (though I do), but because I think that being able to entertain yourself is a life-long gift.

I know this is something that many parents struggle with. The tablet makes it more challenging, because she is used to being entertained by a screen. [And no, I'm not ready to get rid of the tablet altogether, though I do restrict its use, especially in the car.] Being an only child makes it more challenging, because I can't say "Go play with your sister". [And no, I'm not going to provide her with a sibling at this point.] Not living in a neighborhood where a dozen kids are out roaming around and playing outside every day makes it more challenging, compared to my own childhood. [And no, we're not moving.] But I also expect that the "I'm bored. What can I do?" refrain is timeless and near universal. [The cover image shown above supports this theory, from the picture book I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi.] 

Thoughts? Suggestions? Validation? As always, I welcome your feedback. 

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 28: Eisner Awards, Diverse #BookLists + School-Wide #Literacy

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include #BookList, #DiverseBooks, #GrowthMindset, #play, #STEM, #SummerReading, back to school books, boredom, boredom, coding, education, giftedness, Girl Scouts, growing bookworms, hashtags, learning, literacy, parenting, reading, schools, and social media.

Book Lists + Awards

GingerbreadManLooseSchoolUltimate List of Back to School Books, from | first day, new grade, fitting in, etc.  https://t.co/8qlW84XnDx 

Upcoming + novels w/ black girls and boys on the covers, from

South Asian Books in being released in 2017 – Part 2 |

The InbeTWEENers: 25 Great Books for Kids Between Middle Grade + Young Adult Kristy Pasquariello

Ghosts2017 Eisner Awards for comics + were announced this week | has the kids + YA winners

The Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books of 2017 —

Events + Programs

RT @FirstBook: The adds up, & so do small increments of reading time throughout summer -  

Growing Bookworms

Yes! "let them read, not for the sake of producing, but for the sake of reading itself" nails it again https://t.co/fbXpqvlDbn

LiteracyLeaderTen Ideas for Leading as a Principal, inspired by leaders,  https://t.co/ozVTen1Uod

RT @MRARead: Great post on the blog today from about building a school-wide culture of literacy. https://t.co/726AsLd1XE

Growth Mindset

How Making Mistakes Primes Kids To Learn Better |  

Kidlitosphere

Various tidbits in this week's Fusenews: Posthuman Pooh + more

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

TheShallowsInternetReading Wars: finds himself less deeply b/c of social media / distractions / mental clutter  

Yes, Some Comics Are For Kids — And They're Big Business  https://t.co/t0VmSrhTCk

Parenting 

"behaviours associated w/ high levels of performance are replicable + most can be taught"

Discover the Perfect Gift for Your Kid This Summer | A new way to | “That’s fine, be bored.”

5 Summer Vacation Tips for Getting Serious About Rest |

AlfieAndAnnieVeteran author Shirley Hughes warns parents: don't rob your children of the chance to be bored  

Is There a Best Age to Start ? shares some questions for parents to consider

Schools and Libraries

Start At The Bottom: root questions + tactics to consider in building a classroom culture | Scott Jones

ReadingInTheWild Is a Political Act says | Creating books + putting in kids' hands is vital 

How can help kids become "global citizens who are empathetic and inclusive... and don't stare"

100 Hashtags for and via

STEM

for Kids - How Children Can Learn Programming Skills | Art of Blog via

This is cool! add new badges for science, tech, engineering and math  

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


The Bodyguard Series: Chris Bradford

Books: The Bodyguard #1: Recruit, The Bodyguard #2: Hostage, The Bodyguard #3: Hijack, and The Bodyguard #4: Ransom
Author: Chris Bradford
Pages: 272, 224, 272, 224
Age Range: 10 and up

BodyguardBooks1to4Over the past couple of weekends I binge-read the first four books in Chris Bradford's Bodyguard series (helpfully released all together by the publisher for just such a purpose). The Bodyguard series is about a British teen named Connor Reeves who is recruited into a secret organization called Guardian. Guardian trains teens to act as stealthy bodyguards, especially for teenagers, providing a last line of defense that bad guys will never suspect.

The first four books actually consist of two separate adventures, each broken up across two books and marked by, of course, a cliffhanger in between. In both cases I found the first book, involving descriptions of training, as well as introduction of Principals (protectees), to be a little slow. The conclusions, however (books 2 and 4) were fast-paced and suspenseful. I read each of those in a single sitting. They have short chapters, and occasional surprising twists, making them a good fit for reluctant YA readers. 

In the first book, Connor learns that his father, who died when Connor was eight, was a military bodyguard who died in the line of duty. This understanding, combined with the Guardian program's offer of help for Connor's ailing mother and aging grandmother, pulls the boy in. He is, of course, a natural, though he makes mistakes, and has rivalries with the others from his team of Guardian trainees. He also struggles once or twice with flirtatious interest from his Principals (who are attractive teenage girls in both stories), though he also is interested in Charley, a wheelchair-bound slightly girl from his Guardian team.   

The books offer a fair bit of luxury, with descriptions of the trappings of rich, beautiful, powerful people. These are set against dangerous elements, including terrorists and pirates (the two primary types of organizations that kidnap the children of rich, powerful people, of course). While I personally found the descriptions of Connor's training less than enthralling, young readers who have read fewer adult thrillers than I have will likely find them more interesting, with tidbits about alert levels and self defense. And certainly young readers will be on the edge of their seats at the dramatic climaxes of both storylines.

The Bodyguard series is aimed squarely at fans of the Young Bond series and other relatively PG thrillers. It's timely, with a focus on terrorists and other dangers. There are deaths, but none of them (besides that of Connor's dad) are heartbreaking. There are plenty of guns and other weapons, as well as miraculous tech tools (bulletproof t-shirt anyone?). In short, these books are pure summer reading fun for kids age 10 and up. Recommended, and well worth a look for libraries serving middle schoolers.  

Publisher:  Philomel Books
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).


Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 26: Quoting from Books, Eliminating #Homework + #Kidlit Reviews

JRBPlogo-smallToday, I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on growing joyful learners, mainly bookworms, but also mathematicians and learners of all types. The newsletter is sent out every two to three weeks.

Newsletter Update:  In this issue I have four book reviews (picture books through middle grade/middle school) and one post with my daughter's latest literacy milestone (quoting from / acting on advice from a book). I also have two posts with links that I shared recently on Twitter, and one post with more detailed notes / responses to three recent joy of learning-related articles

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I finished two middle grade and three adult novels.  I read/listened to: 

  • Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos: The Adventurers Guild. Disney Hyperion. Middle Grade Fantasy. Completed July 20, 2017, print ARC. Review to come.
  • Caela Carter: My Life with the Liars. HarperCollins. Middle Grade Fiction. Completed July 23, 2017, on Kindle. I couldn't put this one down. Review to come. 
  • Laurie R. King: Lockdown. Bantam. Adult Thriller. Completed July 13, 2017, on MP3. An intriguing story, told from multiple perspectives, about the lead-up to a violent event at a central CA middle school. 
  • Joy Ellis: Hunted on the Fens (Nikki Galena, Book 3). Joffe Books. Adult Mystery. Completed July 19, 2017, on MP3. I'm not generally a fan of stories in which some hidden enemy is sneaking around wreaking vengeance for unknown crimes. But I like the characters in this series so much that I was consumed by this story (if worried for the characters). 
  • Brett Battles: The Silenced (Jonathan Quinn #4). CreateSpace. Adult Thriller. Completed July 10, 2017, on Kindle. 

HiloBook1I'm currently reading Ararat by Christopher Golden and listening to Crime on the Fens by Joy Ellis. My daughter and I are still nominally reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together, but our breakfast reading has been cut short by the need to get to summer day camp by a certain time, so that's going rather slowly. You can find my daughter's 2017 reading list here. For her own reading, she's currently quite into the Hilo books, graphic novels by Judd Winick. She's also been reading and re-reading El Deafo by Cece Bell, I suspect she's working to really understand a story that's thematically a bit above her age level. She incidentally refers to the book as "Cece". As in "Where's Cece? I need to bring it in the car."

Thanks for reading, and for growing bookworms. Here's to more time for summer reading!

© 2017 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook